Back-to-back league defeats wouldn’t constitute a crisis at most ordinary clubs. But Manchester United are no ordinary club and the alarm bells are definitely ringing at Old Trafford after conceding six goals in recent games against Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United writes Paddy Power.
Wednesday’s 0-3 defeat to Newcastle United at the Sports Direct Arena (that's St James's Park to you and me) will have been of particular concern to manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was able to recall Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand on Tyneside yet saw his side again look vulnerable at the back and hesitant in attack.
Manchester United had won their three previous games in the Premier League without conceding a goal so the transformation is puzzling, though can be partly explained by a run of injuries.
A couple of the ManYoo wounded could be fit for the coming weekend but it certainly doesn’t get any easier for the Red Devils as they renew acquaintances with arch-rivals Manchester City, who have again opened up a gap at the top of the Premier League following the busy holiday period.
Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City side didn’t have the best Christmas themselves, having been held by West Brom and then sucker-punched at Sunderland on New Year’s Day. However, they got back to winning ways against Liverpool at the Etihad on Tuesday and still have a one hundred per cent home record, averaging three goals a game in front of their own fans.
Those supporters are still celebrating Man City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October and they’ll be expecting their team to confirm their superiority over their arch-rivals this weekend, though the Blues may have to cope without Yaya and Kolo Toure who are both due to fly out to the African Cup Of Nations shortly.
Manchester City, however, are hardly short of options though will have to make changes for the Manchester derby with Gareth Barry suspended. Former United midfielder Owen Hargreaves would have been a natural replacement but isn’t yet fit enough for first-team duty while Italian forward Mario Balotelli is also likely to be an absentee. Jolean Lescott could return after starting on the bench against Liverpool, however, and Adam Johnson may get a rare start.
PADDY POWER's BEST BET
Man City’s magnificent home record and United’s recent woes suggest the 11/10 for a home win is the bet in this one.
Man City to win by exactly two goals is 5/1, while United to score no first half goals is 8/15.
Remember, that if there is a red card at the Etihad, Paddy Power will refund all losing first/last goalscorer, correct score and scorecast singles on the match.